ORANGE PARK— After a fierce second-half comeback, the Orange Park High Raiders dropped an attritional 29-28 struggle to the Episcopal School of Jacksonville by the thinnest of margins Friday …
ORANGE PARK— After a fierce second-half comeback, the Orange Park High Raiders dropped an attritional 29-28 struggle to the Episcopal School of Jacksonville by the thinnest of margins Friday night.
The sting of last week’s 45-8 loss to Oakleaf High hung heavy, but a slow start impacted the Raiders against the Eagles also.
“You have to find a way to be better and eliminate our mistakes,” said Orange Park head coach Marcus Wimberly, now 0-2, was impressed by the second half start and the way the team fought back, adding that the team showed growth. “We kind of dominated the second half, we just couldn’t figure out enough plays to pull it out in the end. We had a punt blocked earlier so we didn’t want to put our defense in that situation again. We knew it was a calculated risk.”
Orange Park (0-2) at Clay (1-1)
The Raiders are teetering on becoming a team with explosive power and Clay is working on righting the ship that opened with a throttling by Fleming Island. A win by either team is a positive for the next part of the season with Clay coach Kyle Kennard’s wheels constantly turning to get the schematic right with new faces. Wimberly has the blueprint in hand and has seen glimpses of his success only to be dethrottled by miscues.
This should be an evenly matched contest with an exciting finish.
Clay held off a game Ridgeview team last year bent of reversing a 43-0 season opening loss to Pedro Menendez. See Ray Dimonda’s coverage of that game on page 28.
Against Episcopal, the Eagles struck first when they blocked a punt on the Raiders’ first drive. Eagles running back Christian Davis found the endzone from short. Special teams resuscitated the Raiders with Noah Chambers’ return to midfield. Quarterback Bo Myrick hugged the sideline on a 31-yard scamper riding great blocks. It was junior Jermel Brown from 17 yards who cut over middle where he was welcomed in the endzone by teammates. The point after was missed.
The Eagles found the endzone four minutes later when their passing game caught fire. Senior quarterback Joe Wiesner found his reads, especially on screens, and he hit Corey Scott in the flats with the 2-point try to match for a 14-8 Eagle lead to end the first quarter.
The Raiders could take the lead after defensive end Triston Johnson fell on an errant Eagles snap. The next 8-point drive from the Raiders had Myrick as the conductor. On a 4th and goal, Myrick shot through the middle to score under heavy pressure. He then saw a seam over the left for two points. But the Eagles answered again, with Wiesner from his own 7 yard-line hitting Scott on a 50-yard bomb to midfield. And after a quick Raider drive, the Eagles converted a 29-yard field goal with a minute left in the half and a 24-10 lead.
The Raiders didn’t come out the gate, they blew it up. Eagles punter Alexander Hillyard blasted the ball into another player’s back and it caromed to their own 18 yard-line. Raiders running back Kenneth Henderson scored immediately over the middle. Tacklers fell by him: he had been waiting for a run like this.
Brown’s successful conversion brought the Eagles’ lead to 24-22. The Eagles were able to kill clock until the next flashpoint, which showcased the Raiders’ big play potential when sophomore Quinton Moore read Wiesner’s pass expertly on a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown.
But the Raiders got the ball back too soon and with bad field position. They took a safety with about four minutes to play, cutting their lead to 28-26. On the Raiders’ 13-yard-line, Eagles’ junior kicker William Wright slipped in the rain and the ball wobbled through.
The Raiders immediately answered following carries from Myrick to the Eagles’ 13-yard-line with 10.6 seconds left. An untested kicker in the rain with one point to tie, two to win. It’s black-and-white stuff, miss it to lose, make it to win.
The Raiders can also point to a punt return touchdown from Brown that was erased by a penalty and a 5-yard offsides penalty prior to Wright’s victorious kick.
Raider Head Coach Marcus Wimberly said the team made mistakes early and shot itself in the foot.
The Raiders head to Green Cove Springs to face Clay High, 1-1, on Friday.
“We want to learn from our mistakes and get better,” Wimberly said. “We played a lot better than we did last week. We fought harder. Districts are right around the corner.”